Scientists on both sides of the Atlantic are beginning to analyse new data gathered from the seabed along the Whittard Canyon, almost 300km off the Irish coast.

The information has been collected as part of the latest Marine Institute research cruise.

Using the specially designed Holland 1 Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV), scientists from NUI Galway have taken readings, images and samples from depths of up to 3,000 metres.

It is the first time research of this kind has been conducted in the Canyon, at such a distance below the sea surface.

Among the discoveries was rare black coral - a vulnerable and protected species.

Scientists also located deep water sea lilies, hermit crabs, urchins and bamboo coral.

The ROV Holland I allows the researchers to sample the ecosystem, without causing damage.

During the cruise, it operated on a round-the-clock basis, with every measurement and reading recorded and catalogued by those on board.

Another element of the research is to provide samples of deep sea sponge for scientific purposes.

These are analysed for antibacterial compounds that could be used in the development of new pharmaceuticals.

Academics in the United States, Ireland, France and Germany will study various aspects of the wide-ranging survey that was carried out over a two-week period.